We made the following suggestions in our letter:
1. Awaiting Trial Persons who have spent more than one year in prison for minor offences should be considered for release.
2. Awaiting Trial Persons who have spent more than two years for serious offences should be considered.
3. An audit should be done to identify and release inmates who have spent a period longer than the maximum period of imprisonment which they could have served had they been convicted of the offence in respect of which they were detained.
4. Consider organizing a rehabilitation programme for those to be released before their release and a possible follow up programme after release, to reduce to a minimum the possibility of them reoffending and returning back to the prison. This leg can be done in partnership with government parastatals and non-governmental organizations offering such services. Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative (PRAI) is available to support your good office in this regard as well as other areas your lordship may deem fit.
PRAI secured the discharge of these young men today before Hon. Justice Akintoye of the Lagos High Court after spending 3 years in prison for an offence punishable with 3 months imprisonment.
They were arrested in Ajah, Lagos State and handed over to men of Special Anti Robbery Squad(SARS) in May 2015. They were subsequently remanded in prison but their case file was not forwarded by the police to the office of the Director of Public Prosecution.
PRAI requested for a legal advice upon being aware of their predicament in 2017. When there was no response we filed an application compelling the AG of Lagos to state why they should not be released, they were subsequently charged to court. Upon a perusal of the charge sheet we noticed they were charged for being disorderly persons which is punishable upon conviction with 3 months imprisonment. We filed an application asking the court to discharge them having spent 3 years in prison for an offence punishable with 3 months imprisonment. In response to our application, the prosecution withdrew the charges against them and they were discharged.
PRAI…putting smiles on the faces of the downtrodden.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1530124880366-02e57354-a9bb-2″ include=”4261,4262,4263,4264″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
PRAI working together with the law firm of Ayinde Sanni & Co. successfully secured the discharge of Bukar Mustapha, Babagana Bulama and Hassan Abbagana who had spent 8 years in prison since their remand in May 2010.
The ruling of the court paints the unfortunate situation of bedevilling the Administration of Criminal Justice in Nigeria. The Court held thus: “The information in this suit was filed on 20th February 2013, which is over 5 years till date. This criminal suit had gone through 2 brothers of mine before being assigned to me. Upon assignment, the Defendants retook their pleas and they all pleaded not guilty. This was on 30th November 2016. Thereafter, the criminal suit was fixed for trial. Today makes the 6th time the criminal suit is coming up for trial. On each occassion it came up for trial, the prosecution was not ready. Excuses for its non-readiness were given, I think at this point, the court should trigger the provision of Section 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Law. Section 35 and 36 of the constitution is in the mind of the court. Accordingly, this suit is struck out without merit. This is the Ruling of the Court. The Defendants are discharged.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1529602404704-925aa739-2be1-3″ include=”4256,4257,4258″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
The Director of Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative(PRAI), Mr Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem presented Desks and Chairs to the Officer-In Charge of Ijebu-Ode Prison, DCP Adebayo. The items presented on behalf of PRAI to the prison is in furtherance of PRAI’s objective of making the prison truly reformatory so that when prisoners come out of prison they can stay away from crime and we all can be safe. The staff and inmates of the Ijebu-Ode Prison were very elated because this is the first time they will be seeing anything like this.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1519977194694-273212c0-5919-5″ include=”4227,4228,4229,4230,4231″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative(PRAI) as part of her programme launched the first school at Ijebu-Ode prison, Ogun State in collaboration with the Nigerian Prison Service, Ijebu-Ode. The epoch-making event is part of the organization’s schemes, namely “Represent an Inmate”, “Educate an Inmate” and “Empower an Inmate”.
At about 1:30 pm, the programmme that had in attendance the Assistant Comptroller of Prisons (ACP) Mr. Seyi Ogunleye, Welfare Officer, Mr. Ismail Oyebode, Other Staffs, the Director of PRAI, volunteers, and 120 inmates commenced at 12.38pm with prayer from the Prison’s Chaplin, Alhaji Enilari
Delivering the opening remarks on behalf of the Deputy Comptroller of Prisons, (ACP) Ogunseye urged the inmates to take the new school religiously so that their horizon and perspectives to issues will be widened. “It will help you appreciate God and humanity better. In fact, it may help you learn the spirit of forgiveness to start a new life and forget whatever has brought you here instead of wasting so much time roaming about the prison’s yard. So that when you get out there it will not be difficult to start all over again for those that are not condemned”.
The Director of PRAI, Mr. Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem giving his address gave an insight to how he conceived the idea and how far the organisation has gone in protecting the rights of prisoners in Nigeria. He said, “the idea of PRAI was visualised here, in this prison sometime in 2005 when I was a Law student at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye. We came as members of Nigeria Association of Muslim Law Students (NAMLAS)on visitation to this prison. Right here on that day, I promised to come back to protect and improve the quality of life of the inmates. During my service year in Abia State, we started small, freed some inmates and was eventually recognised as the best Corp member for that year in Abia State”.
“We registered the Prisoners’ Rights Advocacy Initiative in 2012. With the organization, we have represented and freed hundreds of inmates in court pro bono and have organized programmes to empower many so that they will not return here. Because some of those whose release we secured were back in prison. So, how do we stop this trend? That is why we are here today to educate and empower you. We have designed a GCE (General Certificate in Examination) class and an adult literacy class so that some of you can turn to be like our facilitator; Mr. Oladipupo Folahanmi Moshood popularly known as Olowo who was condemned to death but while in the prison for 26 years, he eraned his first and second degrees and commenced his Ph.D. Not only that, he graduated as the overall best student in all the special centres during his Masters’ Convocation in 2016” he added.
An elated ‘Olowo’ Mr. Oladipupo Folahanmi Moshood mounted the podium with an unparalleled ecstasy and praises from the inmates echoing ‘I love prison and I am proud of it!’ He began his lectures on sober reflection of how he entered the prison empty handed and left fully loaded.
“I came to the prison in March 1992 and left on 16th of January, 2018 after ‘26 good years’. It is good because of my achievements. When I came in, I never knew I was going to achieve anything. I entered in 1992 and was condemned to death in 1996. I love to come back not as a criminal but as a moulder, a developer and an epitome of change”. He said.
Narrating how he achieved the uncommon fit, he explained thus, “We started a class with 8 of us and we dedicated to exchanging knowledge but eventually, four of us could not make it. I took my GCE without a teacher and at present, I have produced 144 (One hundred and forty-four) inmates with GCE results in Kirikiri Maximum prisons. Today, 44 (forty-four) of them are enrolled in the National Open University for different degree programmes. I was the one that brought GCE centre to Kirikiri Maximum Prison. They wanted to stop us because there is one at Ikoyi prison but we stopped at nothing with our letters. And soon, we will have one at Ijebu Ode prison.”
“No, I am not encouraging you to remain here. Far from it. But, while you are here, you can start with something which you may later conclude when you secure your release. While in prisons, I wrote three books. The inspiration in the prisons can be exceptional” he enthused.
Concluding, Mr. Oladipupo emphasised the beauty of education saying “you can become one of the greatest if you have education. If you must catch the monkey, you must be armed with at least banana, education is that banana to relate with the society. With education, I feel honoured. I am glad to say that I graduated with former President Olusegun Obasanjo amongst the 12, 154 (Twelve Thousand One Hundred and fifty-four) graduands. When I was called to the podium for my award, I felt honoured and was counted as an achiever in Nigeria. Here, we will start with the periphery of education and I am sure the impact will be enormous.”
He encouraged the inmates to build themselves while in the prison and go to school, that by doing that they would better themselves and could still make an impact just as he is doing now. He said now he loves to go to prisons to use his story to remould and rebuild prisoners.
Gifts including packs of notebooks, pencils, biro, white marker board, and other educational materials were donated to kick start the schooling immediately were presented to the prisons authority. Some clothes were donated to encourage the inmates to come to classes looking good. The Director of PRAI also informed the gathering that desks and chairs will be presented to the school within the cause of the week.
PRAI volunteer teachers who are majorly law students of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye were inaugurated by the Director of PRAI to commence classes immediately with Sixty-three (63) new students (inmates) along with the ten(10) pioneer students.
Closing, Mr Oluwaseun Basorun, the Ogun State Coordinator of PRAI promised to monitor the classes closely to ensure that the inmates get quality education at no cost. All the 480 inmates of the prison were given sancks and drinks after which we departed.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1519595913871-1dbefe7f-80df-0″ include=”4218,4219,4220,4221,4222,4223,4224″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
The programme which had one hundred and thirty-nine (139) female inmates in attendance started at about 12:47 pm with the opening speech from the Director. While delivering his opening remarks, Mr. Adetola-Kazeem said that a lot of conferences and discussions are going on out there on prison reforms and prisoners’ right but none of it has been held in any of the prisons facilities. This is the first time in the history that session will be held in the prison to educate inmates about their rights and to also get their contributions on the way forward.
“Some of these talk shows have failed because the main stakeholders are not put into consideration”. “Today, PRAI deem it fit to take the panel session down here to educate you about your rights so that when the prison’s head or some of your lawyers come around, you will be able to ask reasonable questions. We are not here to preach Christianity or Islam, we are here to educate you and get some responses from you”.
Madam Fisayo Bimbo shared her inspirational story and experience with the participants. She said the first time she arrived the prison, her blood pressure rose to above 220/100mmHg. It was so dangerous that it almost caused her stroke but she fought hard to live to be able to witness today. She implored the participants to be focused, stay positive about leaving the prisons, forget what brought them into the prisons and forgive whoever caused it because sometimes God may want to put us in seclusion so that we can face him and look up to him.
Speaking further, she urged them to learn the vocational skills that are organized for them. “To be able to fit into the society when you come out, you need to be emotionally and spiritually strong to be able to hit the ground running. At that time, you need these skills to survive”. “When I was here, I taught English Language and formed a debate team. Some of these debaters are out of here. They meaningfully engaged themselves and when the opportunity present itself, they were some of those that were recommended for discharge” she added.
The panel session had Mrs. Blessing Abiri from CLEEN Foundation, Mr. Yusuf Temilola Nurudeen; a young lawyer and Miss Funke Afolayan; a human right activist to discuss fundamental rights of prisoners. The session was moderated by the Director; Mr. Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem.
Mr. Yusuf explained to the participants that they have their fundamental human rights protected in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria except that they have been curtailed from enjoying some others till they leave the custodial premises. Some of which are; Rights to; private Family life, expression, movement, Association 37, 39, 40, and 41 respectively.
However, for those who have not been sentenced, their right to life, dignity of human person, personal liberty, fair hearing, religion, discrimination amongst others as contained in sections 33, 34, 35, 36, 38, 42 and 43 of the Constitution have not been curtailed.
On the debate whether or not prisoners should vote in 2019 general elections, Yusuf said that there is no provision of any of our laws denying prisoners the right to vote. He relied on the provisions Article 21 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 25 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 3 to Protocol 01 of European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom (ECHR) and Article 13, African Charter on Human Rights.
He stated thus “Though, disenfranchisement can be based on criminal conviction in the United States of America as held by the Supreme Court in California but in South Africa, prisoners vote while they are in prisons. Within the Europe, prisoners vote in Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland but this right depends on the level of the offence and length of sentence in other 13 European Countries. Even in the United Kingdom, the matter has been subjected to debate in the House of Commons”.
“Our streets are rife with blue and white-collar criminals convicted, on bail or awaiting trial but they are not within the custodial facilities like this, they would be allowed to vote. Then, people here should not be differently treated, since 70% of the inmates are still awaiting trial. Perhaps, if voting rights were given to prisoners, our politicians would take the rights, needs and interests of some 68,686 inmates seriously” he concluded.
Mrs. Blessing discussing about the new innovations in the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015) and Administration of Justice Law of Lagos State (2011) that help the quick dispensation of justice said the new laws are meant to reduce the clog in the will of access to justice, reform the prison system and reduce the numbers of awaiting trials.
Some of these provisions are Section 111 of ACJA which provides that “the Comptroller-General of Prisons shall make returns every 90 days to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, President of the National Industrial Court, Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, Chief Judge of the of the state where the Prison is located and to the Attorney General of the Federation of all persons awaiting trial held in custody of in Nigerian prisons for a period beyond 180 days from the date of arraignment”.
In addition, she cited Section 414 on sentencing of pregnant women. The new law provides that execution shall be delayed till the woman give and wean the child. Section 415 provides for the procedure to be followed in the conviction of a pregnant woman.
In Section 486 where the law provides that the court may on the recommendation of the Controller General of Prison, direct the release of a prisoner before the completion of his sentence where the prisoner has served one-third of his term when sentenced to a period of not less than 15 years and can be proved to be of good behavior.
Dr. Funke spoke about the rights of the inmates and the appalling conditions they live in. She attributed the sorry state of the prisons facilities to the government ineptitude, the value we place on human life and lack of some fundamental knowledge about human rights that have brought some of the inmates to the prisons.
In the question and answer session, Angela (not real name) lamented the situation in the prisons and pleaded for interventions from well-meaning Nigerians. She said “it is the corruption in the larger society that brought some of us here. Some need just N10,000 (ten thousand naira only) to pay the option of fine. Many landed here and are disconnected from their family. You need to help us”.
Most inmates who spoke lamented the high handedness of the Lagos state task force who arbitrarily arrested them for no just cause and the magistrates who sentenced them to prison terms of up to 2 years with options of fines running into hundreds of thousand naira. They equally lamented the activities of dubious lawyers who take advantage of their situations by collecting huge sums of money from them and their families without proper representation.
Closing, Mr. Ahmad pleaded with the inmates to be calm and be of good behavior in case there is an opportunity for the prison authorities to recommend someone for discharge. He equally promised that PRAI legal team will carry out a thorough investigation on the activities of the Lagos State Task Force and dubious lawyers defrauding inmates in the coming weeks. He promised to ensure that those found culpable are brought to book.
Refreshment was served to participants and PRAI Volunteer, miss Mobolaji Olorishade donated some pillows for the new prison cells.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1510592969939-faff9f54-cf89-9″ include=”4210,4211″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
The program at Kirikiri maximum prison started at 11.10am an introduction by the Welfare Officer of the prison. There was a brief talk by the Director of PRAI, Mr Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem, about the aims and objective of PRAI, its past events and goals, and an introduction of the PRAI’s three volunteer schemes (“Represent and Inmate”, “Educate an inmate” and “Empower an Inmate’) and few of PRAI’s achievements in assisting inmates and ex-inmates. He added that those skills began in the prison and encouraged the inmates to be a part of the scheme.
The Deputy Controller of Prisons in charge of the Maximum Prison, also confirmed PRAI’s numerous efforts in terms of pro bono litigation and rehabilitation programmes and other efforts towards making the prison system in Nigeria a better one. The welfare officer called out inmates, who are beneficiaries of the Prison’s educational system, to share their experiences.
Moshood Oladipo a former death row inmate and lifer appreciated the officers at maximum prison, all prison authorities that saw to the establishment of school in the prison. He gave his testimony of how he started learning shoe making in the prison before he wrote GCE and enrolled at the National Open University of Nigeria for his first degree and then Masters degree, despite awaiting his death. He informed everyone present that his release warrant was recently signed by the Oyo state government because of the Masters degree he obtained from NOUN. He advised the inmate to be good influence to other inmates and be known for something good in the prison because that could aid their release. He advised those who don’t want to attend school to learn a vocational skill.
The general pastor of the inmates was also called upon; he said he was detained in 2003 and was condemned to death before and later the death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment . He appreciated the opportunity that was given to him to acquire both PGD and MSc. Degree at the Maximum Prison. He advised inmates that their aim of going to school shouldn’t be about the certificate but to acquire knowledge and be well equipped with skills.
The catchyst of the prison catholic church who is also an inmate was called upon to share his experience; he appreciated PRAI and acknowledged that education a very important key to success. He took the audience through his journey from Ikoyi prison where he wrote jamb, taught fellow inmates, learnt soap making and enrolled at the Open University. He admonished inmates to take the step and start now, saying if inmates are not reformed and are being released they go outside to cause more problem just like the case of an ex-inmate that killed a one-time Gulder Ultimate Search winner. He said that with his education, once he is out of the prison he can become a Special Adviser to the President on prison issues, based on his knowledge of the prison system and the reformation he has gone through. He concluded by saying that the prison should be reformatory and not defamatory.
Barr. Adetola Called out for inmates interested in registering in the school today and quite a number signified by raising their hands and a list went round to collect their names.
The head teacher in the prison yard, appreciated the yard officials and the representatives of PRAI, he called them the instrument God is using to change their lives. He sought for assistance in the rehabilitation of the school structure which is always leaking during rainfall. He also sought for fainacial support for the inmates who are teachers in the school as well as books, markers, pens, boards etc. He showed appreciation to the welfare officer of the prison, Alhaji Rasheed for always assisting the teachers with food supply .
Mr. Ogbonaya the prison psychologist appreciated PRAI and its representatives. He said education is a continuum which starts from birth to death. He added that human thoughts are products of what they know and what they know is what they acquire through education. He introduced a club called 3R’s and invited inmates to be a part of the various sessions such as entertainments, sports, catering services and other activities. He advised that inmate should be mindful of the people they move with because some inmates have PhD in pulling people down. He concluded by appreciating the organizers of the program and said some prayers for them.
PRAI’s director, appreciated all attendees and encouraged inmates who indicated interest in studying to fulfill their promises by attending the school. He introduced the volunteers of PRAI present at the event from Mr. Nathaniel Jamgbadi, Miss Nelly D, Miss Aramide Adedeji, Mrs. Yewande and Mr. Kehinde Ibrahim. He appreciated the prison authorities for allowing the program. The inmates showed appreciation by giving PRAI 3 gbosas.
The inmates were told to queue up to collect the food items that was brought for them and they all matched out afterwards.
There was a short meeting with 7 of the school teachers. They all introduced themselves and the subject they teach. Ibrahim Kamil Ogun an inmate who has been sentenced to life imprisonment but seized the opportunity to enroll in the prison nursery school to university and now teaches in the school was one of the teachers at the meeting.
The head teacher indicated that they need teachers in the following subjects; BIOLOGY, MATHEMATICS, ACCOUNTING, HISTORY, ENGLISH and LITERATURE respectively and they also need MARKERS, EXERCISE BOOKS, and BIROS. He also said teachers needs encouragements in form of stipends.
There were about 150 inmates in attendance.
KIRIKIRI MEDIUM PRISON
The program at Kirikiri medium prison commenced at about 2:15pm. The Executive Director of PRAI, Mr Ahmed Adetola-Kazeem appreciated the pastor for allowing the use of the church for the program because the school was extremely small. He introduced PRAI and how it’s set up to liberate, educate and empower inmates. He informed the inmates that PRAI will no longer be taking up random cases on behalf of inmates , and only cases of those enrolled in the school and workshops will be handled by PRAI henceforth.
The principal of the school spoke about the needs of the school and that they have three inmates currently enrolled at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN). He said that they need computers in their computer school, markers, books and other materials important for the running of the school. He also said he is looking forward to meeting the new teachers and advised fellow inmates to take advantage of this opportunity.
Mr. Oyeleye, another inmate appreciated PRAI and other Initiatives that are making impart in the lives of many inmates. He said that the government hasn’t been looking at human capital development and investments programs and that the school should be given a lift so that proper impartation can be made. He added that there should be a platform for empowerment and if the government can see all these, they would do a broader one.
Barr. Adetola responded by saying we will keep trying our best, however we cannot do more than we can do. He made emphases on their involvements in school because we can only help those we know and PRAI is looking into human capital development programs.
Frank an inmate who is a beneficiary of PRAI’s pro bono legal services, said his coming to the prison is not a mistake, but God’s divine directions and that the life he lived that got him to prison was nothing compared to what he has achieved while in prison. Before he became an inmate he had no skill and had no knowledge but now he is a 200 level student in the Open University studying criminology. He is also a website designer and developer; he told inmates that he works with Onesimus Ventures, which is in partnership with the prison service and Covenant University, where they produce paint, soaps, hand wash, car wash e.t.c and he said their products are better that the ones we find outside. They have established business with Wema bank and have sold 5 cartons of soap to them, now he has no reason to go back to committing crime when he leaves the prison. He encouraged other inmates to take advantage of the school and workshops and that he is not impressed with the turn up of inmates in the school and the workshops.
Mrs. Yewande Omotayo, a volunteer and great supporter of PRAI, buttressed his view and further encouraged more inmates to join the school, and called for those who would promise to attend school and workshops. Several of them indicated interest by raising their hands and a list was passed to them.
An inmate asked that after inmates have acquired these skills and have gone through school what would be the end result since the government has made the rule that freed persons would wait 10 years after being released to be fully integrated into the society again and he suggested such law be removed. Barr. Akinola responded by saying, no education is a waste and that it is the duty of the ex-convicts to show that they are reformed and worthy of pardon and he won’t advocate that the law be scrapped.
Another inmate opined that most of the inmates do not understand the meaning of human capital development and how they can take partake in what they do not understand, he also said that many of them went into crime because of lack of skills and knowledge and they need more help from initiative like this in other to expand the training facilities to accommodate more inmates. He added that ventures in prisons like Onesimus Ventures needs to have partnership with initiatives and foundations such as PRAI the purpose of marketing and awareness.
ASP Tony , who represented the DCP, said he is aware that the population of inmates in the prison is much and they all want to leave and are not interested in education, but what they do not know is when they will leave and that is why they need to acquire vocational skills. He told them about the department in the welfare unit called the after care and ones they are empowered the after care unit will follow up on them. He appreciated PRAI for the program and the gifts of Bread, eggs and tea that was brought to feed the inmates.
The program ended few minutes after 4 and there were over 330 inmates in attendance.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_media_grid grid_id=”vc_gid:1508334933393-16e2a50e-b749-0″ include=”4189,4190,4191,4192″][/vc_column][/vc_row]